It took a lot of courage for Theo Fleury to come public with claims
that he had been abused by his former juniors coach Graham James, who
had previously been convicted in 1997 in Canada of assaulting Sheldon
Kennedy. Fleury had stated one reason he came forward was to raise
awareness that victims of sexual assault and abuse should not be afraid
of coming out against their attackers.
So you can understand his
anger when learning that James was given a pardon in 2007 for his crime.
A pardon does not erase a person’s criminal record, but it ensures the
convictions are kept out of a police database used by officers
lot of ramifications that come from poorly made decisions
such as that,” Fleury said in an interview from Calgary. “It has an
amazing trickle-down effect.”
“We’re trying to encourage victims
to start on a process and with a
decision like this obviously puts a pretty big damper on people’s
processes,” he said.
He’s right in the fact that it’s
tough to encourage victims to speak out on such crimes when they feel
the justice system won’t do them any favors. I don’t want to get too
heavily into the subject matter at hand, but it’s thought that for every
sexual assault that is committed and reported, there are many more that
go unreported. The victims feel guilty, ashamed and are afraid of the
ramifications of going to the police.
How can Fleury and others
convince victims that reporting such crimes is needed, helpful and
worthwhile when the justice system fails them?